Thursday, 11 February 2016

a walk on the beach

One of the perks of moving to Scotland is that it now takes me less than twenty minutes to walk down to the beach. It's a real sandy beach where people come to enjoy the sun in summertime, something I'm looking forward to enjoying in a few months. Today, however, it was a slightly cold February day and people were walking their dogs. From the beach I could see the snow-capped peaks on the Isle of Arran but apart from that spring was definitely in the air.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

a time well spent

I have a confession to make. This morning was rainy and dull and with time on my hands I thought it best to finish organising the rest of our clothes. A chest of drawers in our bedroom is still empty after the move and there are still clothes in boxes. It all started well but then I longed for a cup of coffee and probably made the mistake of bringing it upstairs. Before I knew it I was sitting on the rug with books and magazines, and the film Out Of Africa (1985) running in player. I have no excuse. Most of the drawers are still empty but I believe my time was well spent. In my opinion it cannot be a waste of time if it leaves you inspired.

Lately I have been watching Out of Africa a lot. I don't sit with my eyes fixed on the screen, I just let it run in the player and watch it with one eye or listen while I'm doing something else. I often keep the director Sidney Pollack's commentary on because I never grow tired of what he has to say about Karen Blixen, Kenya and how they shot the film. He doesn't only talk about particular scenes, as most directors do, he goes deeper and I love his way of storytelling. Maybe this is just my way of holding on to his voice after his death. Anyway, it's a film I have watched so many times that I can no longer keep track, but each time I do I'm drawn to different scenes. This morning it was the relationship between Blixen [Meryl Streep] and her Somali servant Farah [Malick Bowens], who was with her the entire time she lived on the farm in Kenya. Their conversations aren't long but the scenes are delightful and often witty. In her book Shadows on the Grass she refers to him as her "servant by the grace of God" and I think Pollack's film captures the meaning of it beautifully.

About my rereading. Karen Blixen's Out of Africa is one of the books I have been reading again. I was thinking about it the other day that the more I see of the stuff people share on social media - selfies and pointless websites, dare I say stupidity? - the more I feel the need to take a step back and revisit either quality books or films. They help to cleanse the mind of rubbish articles and unwanted images out there.

A note on my photos: Top photo shows page 133 in the Dec. 2015 issue of The World of Interiors (taken by Andreas von Einsiedel). The article 'Window on the World' is about the late Julian Barrow, an artist and world traveller, who had a studio in Chelsea. The patterns are from V&A Pattern: Indian Florals. Left: Tent hanging, cotton embroidered with silk thread, Mughal, late 17th-early 18th century (V&A: IM.153-1924). Right: Tent hanging, printed, painted and dyed cotton, Mughal, early 18th century (V&A: IM.29-1928). The pattern to the left in my bottom photo: Man's cloak, woven goat-hair embroidered with silk thread, Kashmir (for the European market), 1850-60 (V&A: T.75-1964). The magazine page is from the same issue of TWoI. The article, 'Bauhaus Below the Border' which starts on page 66, is about Josef and Anni Albers. The exhibition 'A Beautiful Confluence: Anni and Josef Albers and the Latin American World' runs at the Museo delle Culture in Milan until 21 Feb.

Friday, 22 January 2016

carnations in winter

The difference the sun makes! When this day started it was just one of those dull, grey ones; a typical winter day. I won't say depressing because I had carnations in the living room and I brought coffee in here and some of the books I'm reading. (Do you also read many at once?) Later I was listening to lectures online when something wonderful happened: The sun came out and everything changed. By the way, in Iceland they are celebrating bóndadagur, or what we would call Husband’s Day in English.

Back to the lectures. I like taking free courses online; I think it enriches the spirit and broadens one's horizons. Currently, through Coursera, I'm registered in a class taught at Wesleyan University, called The Modern and the Postmodern (Part 2). The teacher was so enthusiastic about the material in part 1 that I had to continue. He is a teacher that has one's undivided attention, and today he certainly managed it with a series of lectures called 'Intensity and the Ordinary: Art, Loss, Forgiveness'. In that one he uses Virginia Woolf's novel, To the Lighthouse, to show "how giving up the search for the 'really real' can liberate one to attend to the everyday." Those who have read it will know what he's referring to. The book is one of my favourites by Woolf and I happened to reread it last summer. I had told you that I was reading her diaries. Because of the move to Scotland there wasn't much time for reading but now I'm finishing Volume 2, which covers the period 1920-24. I haven't ordered Volume 3, yet, but it's on my book list for February.

Did you know that pink carnations have the greatest significance of them all? It's believed that "they first appeared on earth from the Virgin Mary's tears – making them the symbol of a mother's undying love" (source). It wasn't the reason I bought them but after I looked up their meaning I find myself looking at them differently. Have a wonderful weekend!